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Friday, August 10, 2007

Facebook Apps - next big shelfware ?

Vinnie Mirchandani revived the great debate – “Is software bought or sold” and generated some interesting comments.

I liked the way he triggered the debate with a confession. Admitting the tendency of many gadget buffs like him to dream up “solution driven requirements”, he steers it close to the latest fad – attempts by the industry’s marketing machines that turn social networking tools like Facebook, Twitter into next big enterprise application irrespective of business value.

I had always argued against the practice of leaving the software “buy” decision with the CTO. This is often the reason why many enterprises have so much of “shelfware” – high cost software that are installed but hardly ever used. Could be either because users found it too complex or the context itself underwent massive change (like Wiki or Social Network tools coming up now) that they now will have to be customized at a great expense to make some sense. The buying decision itself will have to be a process that should begin with the users at the core and not just the suits.

Partly the timing of this debate is aligned to the release of Facebook Platform, an application program interface (API) that developers can use to build applications within the social-networking site Facebook, that has created a Silicon Valley gold rush. It’s the big user numbers in Social platforms (Face book: 30m) that entice founders and VCs to try and turn them into next big enterprise Apps. Or will it be the next big “shelfware” ? All bets off.



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